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Mar 17, 2008 03:57 PM

San Diego- Chilean, Argentinean, Peruvian?

We will be celebrating my DH's birthday in SD at the end of the month. Since he's South American, I thought it would be a nice treat to go to a nice restaurant that serves churrascos, anticuchos or any other South American meat specialties you might recommend. We are staying downtown, near Gaslamp, but we can go anywhere in the county.

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  1. For Peruvian, Latin Chef in Pacific Beach is a must. There isn't a lot in the area, but LC does Peruvian really well. Lomo saltado, aji de gallina, and ceviche are on the menu with many other wonderful dishes. For dessert, they had homemade alfajores, but ran out the last time I was there.

    Check out this thread:

    In the Gaslamp, there's Rei do Gado, which is a Brazilian churrascuria. It's decent and lunch is $13.95, which is a pretty good deal for what they're offering. Various meats, usually nicely cooked, are brought to the table (all-you-can-eat) and there's a small buffet of veggies, rice, etc.

    5 Replies
    1. re: geekyfoodie

      We really enjoyed Latin Chef as well

      1. re: geekyfoodie

        Latin Chef is good, but I'm not sure it qualifies as a "nice restaurant" along the lines of what the OP is looking for - it's very casual (outdoor furniture inside) and the food is not actually churrascuria - I loved the ceviche, but I wasn't as enamored with the rest of my meal - I do want to go back and try more of the menu.

        I'm actually not sure I'd choose the churrascuria places for one of only a few meals in San Diego - there are a couple of them, but I haven't heard very good things about any of them. If you do try one, please report back and let us know what you thought - I don't think any of those places have been written about in a while!

        1. re: Alice Q

          Oops, I was so focused on the regional aspect that I missed that she asked for a nice place and dinner. In that case, no, neither Latin Chef nor Rei do Gado qualify as a nice restaurant for a celebration.

          LC isn't a churrascuria, but Rei do Gado is. While RdG isn't the best churrascuria, I think it's probably the best that San Diego has to offer if the OP wants that kind of meal. I would definitely pick it over Samba Grill in Horton Plaza, which was a little to the left of terrible when I tried it. It became the celebratory resto du jour for the company, so I've been a few times in the last couple of years. I'm the only full-time female employee at my company and when you work with a bunch of guys, a restaurant that serves all-you-can-eat meat wins lots of points. :) Generalization, yes, but true in my case.

          As for the food itself, the meat is generally pretty well-prepared and a decent quality. Nothing is overcooked and the servers will try to offer the part of the meat done to your liking (more to the center for rare, outer crust for medium, etc.). Service is good and I'd definitely stick to lunch (not exactly what the OP asked, but I wouldn't pay the dinner price for the food served), which turns out to be a decent deal.

          In all honesty, I wouldn't pick a San Diego churrascuria as one of the few meals here, either. I mentioned it because she asked about churrascos. Latin Chef, though, is worth a try, though.

          1. re: geekyfoodie

            Has anyone tried Pampas Argentine Grill? It's kind of in an oddball location on Aero Drive, but might fit the bill -

            1. re: Alice Q

              We came back from two weeks in Argentina and went on a tear looking for good Argentinean food here in SD. We started at Pampas and the food is good, but it isn't anything we have rushed back for. They have tango dancers swirling around the dining room which sounds interesting, but ends up feeling gimmicky. I think that Puerto La Boca in Little Italy is a much better choice both for food and atmosphere. Their entrana has made us repeat visitors, the staff is mostly Argentinean and extremely friendly, they have a strong Argentinean focused wine list, and the atmosphere is perfect for a special birthday dinner. It's also a really quick cab ride away from the gaslamp.


      2. Latin Chef was what came to mind first, but Berta's may fit the bill:

        Good Luck and have fun.

        1 Reply
        1. re: kare_raisu

          I do want to try Berta's. It's been there for a while, but I never have a chance to try it.

        2. Actually, Rei do Gado is a pretty nice restaurant. We've been there oftnen to celebrate birthdays and special occasions. However, their dinner price is nearing $40 (or maybe it already is by now), which is way more than I am willing to pay for their food. The meats are good and the food in the buffet area is also tasty, but it's still expensive.

          Samba Grill in Horton Plaza is no longer there. I forget what it's turning into, but when we were at Panda Inn for brunch last month I noticed it was gone.

          I've only been to Pampas for lunch (it's near my office) but I was happy with the food we got. Their chimichurri sauce is really garlicky and tasty. Service is a little slow but pleasant. I had a steak sandwich and the meat was actually pretty bite-tender.

          Latin Chef certainly isn't a "nice" restaurant, but the food is definitely worth a visit. The only other S. American place I've been to is Tropical Star on Balboa. It's even more casual than Latin Chef but the food seems to be of the homey, comfort-food type.

          1 Reply
          1. re: leanneabe

            I took the DH there recently, and dinner at Rei do Gado is now $48. We had some nice cuts of meat there, but I think it's overpriced for dinner. If I were to go back, I'd go for lunch.

            Berta's has always been a favourite of mine, and, while their food is primarily Central American, I seem to recall them having a dish or two from South America.

            Pampas is good, but since they've added tango dancers, I generally go for lunch. Nothing against the tango - heck, we have a dog named Tango! It's a stunning dance, but maybe not so much when I'm trying to enjoy my dinner and the company I'm with.

          2. I just talked with a Panamanian at work who thinks Tropical Star is legit. Really not ambient inside but food is good

            1. I had a great dinner at the Peruvian place El Q'ero in Encinitas. The Sea Bass ceviche was some of the best I have had in the county, served with roasted corn instead of the usual corn on the cob. They had anticuchos and plenty of side dishes, great flan and alafajores! Was really interested in Peruvian wine but they only have Argentinian and Chilean available. Cusquena beer and Inca Cola are also offered along with a couple beers form Brazil. Be sure to make reservations, this tiny place was packed and I saw many people turned away. I will get pics next time!

              564 S Coast Hwy
              Encinitas, CA 92024
              (760) 753-9050